Social media is becoming more ingrained in standard business practice every year. Recognising the power of good customer interaction, many large companies employ someone solely to run these accounts.

Having a social media presence can boost sales by raising customer awareness of your product, improving relationships and increasing brand visibility, says social media guru John Popham in our Q&A.

Why should I use social media in my business?

If you are not using social media, you are not present in the conversations your customers are having every day. There is growing evidence that people are becoming more sophisticated consumers. They no longer respond in the same way to traditional marketing messages, but are often more likely to accept the recommendations of their peers.
Don’t think that by not being involved, there won’t be somebody, somewhere, talking about you and your product or service. Being involved allows you to lead aspects of that conversation, ensure information being put out is accurate, correct inaccuracies, respond to complaints and amplify compliments.

How easy is it to maintain, and can I make it easier?

A lot of people complain about the time-consuming nature of social media and its capacity to distract attention from other forms of work. But people who use social media effectively report that it replaces other activities which are becoming redundant. One of the keys to managing social media effectively is to use a desktop client, such as Tweetdeck and Hootsuite, on your computer, rather than having to keep visiting websites. They also allow the management of multiple accounts on multiple platforms from one place. Also, it can be important to give yourself the option of sending and receiving updates while on the move.

How do I best use social media to engage with my customers?

Use social media to build rounded relationships that are about more than financial transactions. Talk to them regularly, ask them for feedback on your products or services, make it clear you will act on that feedback, and respond promptly. Set up searches for your company name, and the name of your products and services, and use these to keep in touch with what people are saying about you, and join in those conversations. Be helpful rather than pushy, and build your reputation online.

Search for keywords relevant to your business to find people with similar interests. You can then follow or connect with these people.

What are the biggest mistakes people make with social media?

Constantly pushing out traditional marketing messages is seen as “spamming” by most social media users and will do more harm than good. Other key mistakes include:

  • Not responding quickly to complaints or errors.
    Not thinking before you post (give yourself a few seconds consideration before hitting “Send”)
  • Posting from a company account messages that were meant to be read by close friends and family only – if something does go wrong, apologise and put it right quickly.

Where can I go for help?

There are lots of sources of help out there. There are online guides, and there are consultants who will assist you. Think carefully before choosing a consultant, however. If they claim to be a social media expert but hardly ever tweet and have few Twitter followers, for instance, you would have to question how good they were at it. And beware of consultants offering to do everything for you; social media is best done authentically from a deep knowledge of the company and products. Consultants should aim to pass the skills on to you, not do it all themselves. And don’t be afraid to ask other social media users for help and advice. You could be surprised by how much people are willing to help each other.



Facebook LinkedIn YouTube
  • Growing in popularity
  • Based on 140-character updates
  • Easy to disseminate messages
  • Smaller user base
  • Largest social network
  • Based around family and friendship ties
  • Good for spreading viral content
  • Difficult to reach people you don’t already know
  • Business-oriented
  • Designed for speaking to clients and networking in a professional capacity
  • The world’s largest video-hosting website
  • Video can be a powerful medium for getting messages across
    Encourages sharing


Ellen Watt

Ellen Watt runs, a farming-themed clothing design company, which she started in 2009. She puts much of her success down to social media, in particular Facebook, which she says is an invaluable part of her business and her main form of marketing. Proving that maintaining social media does not require expensive consultants, Mrs Watt runs the Facebook page herself – sometimes even while working on the farm using her mobile phone.
The key to marketing via social media, Mrs Watt has found, is engaging followers directly and getting them to involve others. She recently ran a photo competition where users posted their own farming photos on the Facebook page.

“This is an easy way to get more followers on to your page because the winner has to get the most ‘likes’, so they get all their friends and family to go on and help them win. When they go on they might like what they see and may be tempted by the shop, which there is a direct link to via Facebook.”

The page is updated daily and now has nearly 1,500 followers. Mrs Watt keeps an eye on the figures to get an idea of the demographic of her potential customers.

“Facebook provides me with statistics so I know how many people are seeing my posts on a weekly basis. For instance last week 10,224 people looked at my Facebook page and 442 of them either commented on something on my page or liked it.

“I also know that 22% of my fans are female aged between 25 and 34 years and 15.3% are male of the same age. I have fans all over the world thanks to this platform, from as far afield as Australia, Canada the USA. I can tell things like the majority of folk are entering my site through mobile devices now and not PCs.”

Not only can she tailor updates to suit her audience, but social media also allows Mrs Watt to hold conversations with her customers.

“Social media is also great because people can ask me a direct question about a product or make a special request regarding a design or garment at any time of the day or night and because of modern technology I can respond quickly and efficiently. I don’t need to be sitting at a computer all day. It really is amazing.
“In short, wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for social media.”



Patch Jobson

Twitter can be an effective tool for targeting high-profile individuals to spread messages to their followers, even if you don’t have many followers of your own. If considered carefully, it can provide marketing that money cannot buy.

This is the method Patch Jobson, group marketing co-ordinator at agricultural supplier MST Parkins, frequently uses. In one instance, being imaginative and timely on Twitter led to a mention on a national radio show which is listened to by seven million people.

“We received a three-minute mention, along with the Devon County Show on BBC Radio 1’s The Chris Moyles Show when we tweeted Chris telling him that we were going to bring him breakfast, as he was complaining he hadn’t had any while on location at BBC Radio Devon. This then lead to another mention, and an impromptu photocall.
“This was all made possible due to being able to connect with Chris Moyles instantly while he was live on air.”

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